Let’s get this straight: the Cologne cathedral is huge.
But what of the Castle Church of Wittenberg? You know, the famous church where Martin Luther would preach at? Well, the results were very… different.
The Cologne Cathedral dates back to the 1200s, was at one time the tallest building in the world, and is a feat of Gothic architecture. Even though parts of it are under renovation, it nonetheless retains all of its grandeur. Priceless art was everywhere in the form of statues, paintings, and other objects.
In contrast, the Castle Church was quaint and small. It was under a more extreme renovation when we had visited. As a result, the sanctuary floor was covered by wooden pallets and plywood. Several parts of the walls were covered by tarp and banners. Even without the construction, the church seemed stiflingly small, vastly different from the intimidating structure of the Cathedral.
However, the biggest difference in these churches did not lie in their structural design, but in the atmosphere of worship. The Cathedral was filled with people. Thousands visit daily. On the day we attended church there, a large crowd of tourists watched the entire service from the back. It was a Catholic mass, and therefore shared all the traits inherit from the service. I never felt very comfortable there, and it wasn’t a very worshipful experience for me.
I honestly couldn’t shake off the feeling that everything that I was sitting on, everything that I saw, was built by the profit of indulgences and monarchical power.
In contrast, the Castle Church reflected much of the personality of Martin Luther. He never wanted to separate from Catholicism, but rather wanted to reform the religion. The Church of Wittenberg therefore has traces of Catholicism, but is largely played down. There were no crowd of tourists here. There were no priceless pieces of art. There was only a makeshift sanctuary and earnest worship. Though the pastor also spoke in German, it felt like an altogether more intimate service.
*Side-note: I am not judging the qualities of Catholicism versus Protestantism. I am only reflecting on the qualities of two churches with very different histories.